By Zeeshan Rasool Khan
January 25, 2019
Contemporary sociologists generally define
minority as a group of people differentiated from others in the same society by
race, nationality, religion or language— who most often experience disadvantage
over other dominant groups. Also, they lack power and hence remain susceptible
to certain embargoes, discriminations and other prejudicial treatment in most
of the cases.
Minorities especially racial and religious
are facing discrimination and prejudice all across the world, India and
Pakistan is no exception where particularly religious discrimination is on the
rise. India is a religiously diverse and democratic society with a constitution
that provides legal equalities for its citizens irrespective of their religion
and prohibits religion-based discrimination; however, the reality is far
different; in fact, India’s pluralistic tradition is facing serious challenges
in a number of its states. In India, not only Muslims but also other minorities
are feeling unsafe. Dalit suffering sees no end. Christian minorities are
expressing concern over growing intolerance. Similarly, Muslims are
soft-targets of Hindu radicalism. Independent Bipartisan Commission claimed
that since 2014 there has been a dramatic escalation in persecution and
discrimination of religious minorities in India.
At present, Islamophobic intellectuals are
hell-bent to pass blame on Islam for minority discrimination. They keep on
spewing venom to distract the people from real teachings and principles of
Islam. However, it raises thorny question, if Islam promotes discrimination,
then why India with 14.4% Muslims is ranking top in the religious
is thus incumbent upon all of us to update ourselves about what the approach of
Islam towards religious minorities is. Do the claims of Islamophobic
intellectuals make any sense? Let us analyze the Islamic perspective in this
regard: Islam seeks to establish a society where all citizens are alike before
its law and enjoy equal rights. The history of Islam presents plentiful
examples, which explicitly indicate that the minorities enjoy similar rights in
an Islamic State as the Muslims do?
Islam urges people to worship Allah
Almighty but it does not underpin forcible conversions. Invitation to truth and
pressurization are mutually exclusive realities.
The Holy Quran ordains:
Messenger!) Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good exhortations
and debate with them in the best manner. Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of
who has divagated from his way, and He is most knowing of who is [rightly]
Islam has strictly disallowed the adoption
of such a method of invitation, which affects the religious independence of the
“There is no
coercion in religion. Verily, guidance has evidently been distinguished from
Jabir Bin Abdullah narrates ‘Once a funeral
procession passed in front of us. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) stood up and we too
emulated him. We asked, O! Allah’s apostle. This is the funeral of a Jew.
The Holy Prophet said; whenever you see a
funeral procession, you should stand up (Bukhari). This explains the attitude
of the Holy Prophet towards non-Muslims.
History bears witness that the Holy Prophet
drafted ‘Charter of Medina’ shortly after emigration to Medina. In which
the Holy Prophet integrated separate clause for rights of non-Muslims that
(a) The security
of God is equal for all groups (b) Non-Muslim members will have the same
political and cultural rights as Muslims. They will have autonomy and freedom
of religion (c) Non-Muslims will take up arms against the enemy of the nation
and share the cost of war. There is to be no treachery between the two. (d)
Non-Muslims will not be obliged to take part in religious wars of the Muslims.
Moreover, Islam uses the term Dhimma,
referring to non-Muslim citizens residing within the state’s border as opposed
to crude term minority. Dhimma literally means “Protected Person”. The term
itself reflects the respectful status attributed to non-Muslim communities
under the Islamic system. The Dhimmis had their right fully protected in their
communities and were subject to their own special laws and exempt from laws
applicable to the Muslim community. Rules of Islamic state related to Dhimmis
are summed up in the Quran, which says; “For you is your religion, and for me
is my religion (109:6)”. Islam thus refutes the idea of a monotonous system
that expects different ideological communities to follow same directives with
respect to public, religious, social, and political lives.
In an Islamic state, the minorities cannot
be coerced to render defence. It is, however, the responsibility of the Islamic
state to guard them. Since the Islamic State is responsible for the protection
of life, honour, and property of the minorities and they do not have any other
obligation with regard to defence, they are liable to contribute financially to
the Islamic state in the form of Jizya. Even with regard to the imposition of
Jizya on the minorities, Islam has taught about justice.
Due to space constraint, it is not possible
for me to delve deeper into the Islamic history to prove how minorities were
treated in an Islamic State but to some extent; it became clear that Islam
protects the rights of minorities proving Islamophobic intellectuals wrong.
However, Muslim Clergy leaders need to present a true picture of Islam to
combat the distortions circulated about Islam and Muslim-dominated countries
must impose regulations in accordance with Islamic Shariah to put an end to all
sorts of discrimination that will also eliminate myths about our religion.